Driving change along the supply chain

Innovation is in Solidaridad's DNA. In all that we do, we look beyond existing sustainability solutions to find ways to make our work more effective. As part of our 2016 - 2020 strategy, we’re working in four innovation areas where we seek to increase our expertise to expand our impact.

Tracking yields on a smallholder farm in Mexico using Solidaridad's app 

Globally, we are facing complex challenges regarding sustainability and inclusivity. To address these, we need to implement smart and holistic solutions. We must look beyond the commodity level to understand how landscape innovation can mitigate the negative effects of climate change. It is imperative to take gender inequality issues into account, not just because we value inclusivity, but because there is a clear business case for including women. In one of our most prestigious programmes, we are exploring how the use of data and digital tools can help scale our interventions and give farmers more ownership. Last but not least, we are introducing new types of financial models, such as impact investment, to accelerate sustainable production.

  • Climate and landscapes

    In 2019, we conceptualized our climate approach for the third phase of Solidaridad's 2016 - 2020 strategy and worked on the tools to implement the approach. Probably the most important project was the ongoing development testing of the climate risk and vulnerability guidelines and the Climate Smart Index.

    The Climate Smart Index is a tool to measure farmer progress on adaptation and progress towards climate resilience and measuring the effectiveness of the interventions we recommend. The guidelines are a crucial first step to understanding climate risks for specific regions, commodities, and farmers. We tested the Climate Smart Index with data from more than 50,000 farmers in four different projects – Sugarcane in Brazil and India, Coffee in East Africa, and Palm Oil in Nicaragua – in partnership with Datakind, a UK-based data analytics firm. In 2020, we will continue the testing of delivering on the proof of concept and prepare the tool for implementation. We also developed commodity-specific definitions of climate smart agriculture for coffee, cotton, palm oil, and tea (cocoa, livestock and soy specifications will follow in 2020.) These will inform the Solidaridad programme designs and support our positioning in the climate arena. Solidaridad is increasingly positioned as an effective and trustworthy recipient of climate finance, thanks to our growing track record of supporting farmers to become climate resilient and adopt low-carbon agricultural practices. Working with the Green Climate Fund (the largest global climate fund), the first proposals and partnerships with governmental entities began to take shape this year.


    Solidaridad developed more than 26 digital tools in 2019. They are being deployed across 50 programmes, enabling 300,000 farmers to access knowledge and support, and to track yields. We also began creating protocols to share these tools across our network and scale the most successful ones.


    We are increasingly working towards a model where communities themselves adopt and manage digital systems, adapting them to local needs. This sparked a number of initiatives: systems in West Africa to help farmers without smartphones interact and obtain advice. Following successful rollout tests, the application is now being scaled to the tens of thousands of farmers Farm Diary, a tool that helps smallholders in Central America manage their plots and keep records, while collecting data and monitoring project outcomes a community-led model in Southern Africa where local micro-entrepreneurs manage small digital businesses including soil testing, delivery of advice, and data collection for market players direct payments through digital wallets and targeted advice by phone for women in our SaFaL project in Bangladesh, through an initiative funded by a USAID grant to combat gender imbalances in the dairy chain. In order to help guide these efforts and combine them into propositions that can engender systemic change, we collaborated with the Qoin Foundation, a Dutch entity specializing in community currencies. We aimed to create a new paradigm of development intervention, led by communities and using local incentive mechanisms to drive investment and foster behaviour change, delivering an inclusive, ethical data economy to smallholders and miners.


    Solidaridad engages with financial institutions to develop investment policies and products with a positive social and environmental impact. Through investible business propositions and pilot projects, we aim to demonstrate how financial institutions can move beyond the do-no-harm principle to a do-more-good approach.

    In 2019, we developed PlusPlus, an innovative crowdfunding instrument. The first strategic partnerships were established around it with Lendahand, Pan African Savings and FMO, the Dutch development bank. The partnerships are geared towards developing financial instruments and the delivery of technical assistance support during both the pre- and post-investment phase. Solidaridad facilitated an investment in a satellite plant for the Kayonza Tea Growers’ Factory in Uganda. We worked with external partners including the UNDP, as well as tapping into internal expertise across our regions. A tea expert from Solidaridad India visited the plant to assess the business plan and advise on best practices. This resulted in OikoCredit, a worldwide cooperative and social investor, investing 3.2 million dollars in the new plant. We also supported 80 small and growing businesses in professionalizing their operations, working towards investment readiness, and introducing them to potential investors. These businesses supply smallholder farmers with agricultural inputs and other services. By providing them with funds and expertise, we help them to grow and help more farmers and their communities achieve sustainable livelihoods.

  • Gender Inclusivity

    In 2019, we developed a gender knowledge platform as the main resource hub for gender inclusivity across the Solidaridad network. All tools, data, research, and impact stories will be integrated in the platform to use in support of effective gender mainstreaming at project level and in the internal organization.

    The gender task force co-created a gender readiness tool for project managers which assesses how gender inclusive a project is and gives recommendations for making projects more inclusive during the design and planning phases. The tool was piloted in South Africa, where we also co-hosted the 16 Days of Activism, a worldwide annual campaign to support and strengthen efforts to end gender-based violence. Other initiatives in the regions included: training 4,200 women in India in financial literacy, savings, access to finance, and entrepreneurship identifying and training 70 model couples to be gender champions within communities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda who will promote more balanced decision making, division of labour, and access and control of resources training 750 women in East Africa in financial literacy who consequently joined village savings and loan associations where they can save and borrow small loans training 180 managers and employees of palm oil company Grupo Jaremar in Honduras in gender inclusion and masculinity awareness, and revising its gender inclusion protocol in accordance with Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) requirements revising the indicators and verification system of the new RSPO principles and criteria in relation to the protection of the human rights as well gender inclusion for producers, workers and communities.